Basketball – 5 Minutes with J.D. Collins

Getting to know the new NCAA men’s national coordinator.


Hometown: Hartford City, Ind.

Experience: NCAA national coordinator of men’s basketball officiating; former coordinator of officials for the Mid-American Conference and Summit League; former consultant to the Big Ten Conference; former D-I official for nearly two decades, including two Final Fours. Suffered career-ending injury in 2009-10 season; worked in seven conferences.

REFEREE: How would you describe the current state of officiating?

COLLINS: Across the country we have quality officials doing great work, night in and night out. That gets overlooked. Our missed-call ratio or our accuracy of calls, is extremely high. One play in one game can get a lot of attention, but our officials across the country are doing a great job. I’ve stood in the shoes they stand in. I know how difficult it is to do their job, and they deserve to be credited with doing some outstanding work.

Referee: Block-charge plays continue to be in the headlines. What can be done to increase the accuracy, and does the accuracy change from lead, center and trail when called from those respective spots on the floor?

collins: That’s a chicken and the egg question there. First, on any play, you have to be in the right position to make the call. If the play is coming down the paint, going to the rim, and the lead is in the proper position and has a good angle between the players, he should be able to assess whether the defender is legal prior to that crash happening. The reality is that the center official is straightlined with the defender. Can he see left movement of three to four inches? In that play, the center may not have the best look and the lead needs to address it. Positioning is the key, knowing who the primary is. Overall, one of the things that we overlook is when we’ve got crashes and bodies down, we need to seriously consider having calls. Too many times there are crashes, bodies on the floor, we don’t address the play, and then the game itself gets more physical.

Is there empirical data that says we’re missing block-charge plays? Because I’ve had access that says we’re doing a pretty good job of getting the block-charge plays right. If there’s empirical data out there that says our accuracy isn’t high enough, then we need to address that. But if we’re getting an acceptable rate, then maybe there are other plays that deserve more attention. Are we dealing with a perception that block-charge plays are not correct or are we dealing with reality and the empirical data that says we are or are not? In my infancy at this position, I don’t know that answer.

Referee: What will be your immediate areas of focus relating to mechanics and positioning?

collins: I’m a little hesitant to jump quickly, but what I will say is we need to do a better job overall in stopping the clock on every play, and communicating effectively. Once we blow our whistle on a play, the judgment portion of our officiating is done, and we become communicators. What we’re communicating to the table, to the players, coaches, fellow officials, has to be clear, has to be understandable and can’t just be my favorite signal I use every time. At that point we’re communicating a message, and it needs to be done with a purpose. Stopping the clock on every play will make us better. It will make us slow down and see if our partner has something different, see if our partner even has a call. Slowing down just a touch so that we keep ourselves out of the soup. Stopping the clock on every play is still in the mechanics book, and we will utilize it. That will be an adjustment that many of our officials across the nation will need to adhere to. It’s not that hard. It’s how we began officiating, and we just simply got away from it. That will be a focus of mine. It may be a pretty minor focus, but at the same time I think it’s really important to make us better officials.

Getting It Right – Soldier on After Tragedy

By Paul Hamann

stover picTen-year-old Chris Stover wanted to be a soccer official, but the rules said he had to be 11. The assigner “felt sorry for him and wanted him to work,” recalls his mother, Mari Stover. So he was on the field at 10, working youth matches just like his father, Rick Stover, a longtime basketball and soccer official in Vancouver, Wash. A desire to supplement allowance grew into a passion. By the time Chris started his senior year of high school, he was named Washington’s District 5 Soccer Official of the Year, a passion he only set aside upon his U.S. Air Force Academy appointment.

Rick says that all Chris learned in officiating stayed with him as he worked his way up to the rank of captain, piloting more than 100 successful helicopter rescue missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. “He understood the leadership aspect,” Rick said. “There’s a power position, but you need other people to work to get things done.”

Indeed, when Chris would show up for work at the Royal Air Force Lakenheath base in England, he would frequently bring coffee for the enlisted men on duty. “And enlisted people and officers don’t usually mesh,” Mari said.

Chris died in January 2014 when his helicopter crashed on a training mission. The unspeakable loss spurred Rick, Mari, their daughter Kelly and local officials to action. It also inspired an unexpected gesture of love for Rick before a game.

Rick’s officiating family approached Mari and him with support and an idea: to start a scholarship in Chris’s name. Capt. Chris Stover Scholarships go to local students who either play varsity basketball or are involved in ROTC. The committee, composed entirely of basketball officials including Rick, selected the first recipients last summer. Rick and Mari support other worthy causes, including the That Others May Live Foundation, which aids families and children of Air Force rescue heroes killed or severely wounded in their duties.

Rick received a simple but poignant bit of support before a high school girls’ basketball game in December. Right before the national anthem — always a difficult moment for Rick — he noticed that one player from each team had walked over to stand next to him. “I had no idea,” he said. “All of a sudden they roll the flag down, and I thought, ‘Why are two players standing beside me?’ And then I figured it out.”

The two coaches told Rick they had organized the show of support in order to humanize the people wearing stripes and to remind them of the importance of relationships in sports.
That’s a lesson that Rick Stover and his fellow officials continue to pass on in memory of a fellow official turned hero.

Paul Hamann has officiated high school basketball since 1996. He is a high school teacher who lives in Vancouver, Wash.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 07/16 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Baseball – You Can’t Go Home Again

By George Demetriou

Thomas Wolfe wrote You Can’t Go Home Again in 1940. The phrase has come to mean many things, including that attempts to relive youthful memories will always fail. Another thought is that you can’t return to your place of origin without being deemed a failure.

There is a strong baseball meaning as well. A batter-runner who retreats before reaching first base is out if he returns to the plate. Also, even if he never touched it, a runner who has gone into dead-ball territory cannot return to touch home and avoid being called out on appeal. And last, a runner who legally acquires title to a base may not return to his previous base once the pitcher assumes his pitching position.

However, there are several situations in which a runner can retreat to his base of origin without being deemed a failure. Except where noted, the material applies equally to NFHS, NCAA and pro rules.

Batter’s interference. The rules give the batter a right to swing at the pitch without hindrance. Once the batter has had an opportunity to swing, the catcher has the right to field the ball and make a play.

When a runner is attempting to steal a base, the batter can be guilty of interference if he hits the catcher with his bat on the followthrough, or if his swing brings him over the plate where he interferes with the catcher’s attempt to throw out a runner who is attempting to steal a base or if he makes an unnatural movement that interferes with the catcher.

If the batter interferes and any runner attempting to advance is put out, the contact is ignored. Otherwise, the batter is out and all runners either remain or return to the base occupied at the time of the pitch (NFHS 7-3-5; NCAA 7-11f; pro 6.06c Cmt).

Runner hit by batted ball. Also, if a runner is hit by a fair batted ball before it passes an infielder other than the pitcher, the ball is dead and the runner is out. The batter-runner is awarded first base and is credited with a hit. Other runners advance only if forced (NFHS 5-1-1f, 8-4-2k; NCAA 6-2e, 8-2g, 8-5k; pro 7.08f).

Play 1: With R1 on first and R3 on third, B1 grounds the ball between third and short. The ball hits R1 before it reaches F4, who had been playing deep. Ruling 1: R1 is out. B1 is awarded first and R3 is returned to third.

Leaving too soon and missed bases. When the ball is dead, a runner may return to touch a missed base or one that he left too soon unless he has advanced to and touched or advanced beyond the base at which the infraction occurred (NFHS 8-2-5; NCAA 8-6a AR 2; pro 7.10b AR).

Play 2: B1 hits a home run and misses first base. As he rounds third, he becomes concerned his error was observed by the defense. B1 retouches third and second, returns to touch first and then proceeds to score. Ruling 2: If the defensive team appeals, B1 is declared out for missing first. B1’s return to first was illegal.

If the runner realizes his mistake and is attempting to return to his original base after a fly ball is caught and the ball is thrown out of play, the runner may retouch and the award is made from his original base (NFHS interp.; NCAA 8-6a AR 3; pro 7.10b AR).

Play 3: R1 is on first when B1 hits the ball to deep center field. R1, moving on the pitch, thinks the ball will not be caught. After rounding third, he realizes the ball was caught. R1 retouches third and is heading for second, but has not yet retouched that base when F8’s overthrown ball goes into dead-ball territory. Ruling 3: The fact that R1 was returning is relevant. He may retouch second and first and then proceed to third on the award.

If the runner doesn’t acknowledge his mistake and is not attempting to return to his original base after a fly ball is caught and the ball is thrown out of play, he is given a two-base award from the base last touched. The defense may then appeal the base running infraction. The runner must return to the missed base/base left too soon before proceeding to touch any awarded bases. The award is from the original base (NFHS 8-2-5; NCAA 8-6a AR 3; pro PBUC 6.12).

Play 4: B1 hits a grounder to F4. The throw to first goes over F3’s head into the dugout. B1 misses first. Ruling 4: Although he is awarded two bases, B1 must legally touch each base. If B1 does not touch first before proceeding on the award, he is declared out on proper appeal.

A missed base can be corrected if a runner touches a base after an award. The touching corrects any previous baserunning infraction. That concept is known as “Last time by” and is defined as: If the runner retouches a base or bases in advancing to the awarded base, or in returning to the original base occupied at the time of the pitch, his failure to touch a base in returning is corrected under the theory that touching the base the last time by corrects any previous error (NFHS 2007 interp. #18; NCAA 2-51; pro interp.).

George Demetriou, a resident of Colorado Springs, is the current NFHS rule interpreter for the state of Colorado.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 11/12 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Feature – ‘IT’ Runs in the Family


By Peter Jackel

Mariscal siblings Eduardo, Felisha, Alejandro and Apolinar have found success at the highest levels of soccer officiating.

Nestled between the San Diego Bay and the scenic splendor of the coastal mountain foothills in Southern California are the sprawling sun-kissed expanses of Chula Vista, Calif. Standing inconspicuously in a typical neighborhood lined with palm trees in the city is a home that was broken by definition, but beyond loving and warm by nature. And within its confines, a future first family of four soccer officials was nurtured by a single parent with an iron fist and a compassionate heart.

It was in a five-bedroom cream-colored house at 341 “L” Street where Luz Aurora Mariscal raised her four sons and one daughter as a single parent with all the conviction and love that flowed within her 5-foot-1 frame. Juggling career balls that involved cleaning houses, working with disabled children and taking on physical and occupational therapy, Luz was a master at maximizing the precious few hours of quality time she had with her children — Julian, Alejandro, Felisha, Eduardo and Apolinar. All five would grow into respected, productive, beloved adults under the guidance of this light-skinned woman who could communicate so much with just her brown eyes. And four of them would become elite professional officials, empowered by the excellence instilled into them by their mother.


alejandro-on-felisha-updatedAlejandro on Felisha

“Felisha has a unique personality. She has the perfect mix of tenacity, kindness and humor. She is a person with vision and persistence to achieve her goals. I could see these tendencies since we were children. She was the only girl in the family, so she would always follow along and wanted to play with us, the boys, regardless of the activity. Her competitive spirit would always show. … Felisha is a remarkably passionate person, always doing her best whether in sports, school, work, coaching or refereeing.”

Meet the Mariscals

Julian was the first born, arriving in 1979. He was the only Mariscal who did not pursue soccer officiating, opting instead to use his skills in another realm. He works as a welder and fitter for General Dynamics NASSCO, which designs and builds ships in San Diego.

“I think he was the most talented guy of all of us,” Eduardo said. “Everybody in the family thought he was the most talented and athletic.”

Alejandro, known to his siblings as Alex, followed in 1980. He was the first Mariscal to pursue soccer officiating, encouraged his siblings to follow his lead, and serves to this day as their mentor. He is perhaps the busiest of the four siblings, having worked in Major League Soccer, international friendlies, the North American Soccer League and the United Soccer League.

“I consider Alex to be the leader of our referee family,” Felisha said.

Felisha came along in 1982. Described by Alejandro as having “the perfect mix of tenacity, kindness and humor,” she has achieved the highest certification among her siblings. Ironically, Felicia, a FIFA International assistant referee who recently became eligible to officiate International Men’s Friendly matches, perhaps had the most difficult journey ascending through the officiating ranks.

The family was filled out in 1984 by twin brothers Eduardo and Apolinar, the latter of whom answers to Polo, and is the youngest by five minutes. They are certified to work MLS lines and continue to follow their older siblings to the top.

“With Apolinar and Eduardo being identical twins, when I see them for the first time, I wait until they are together to say hello and call them, ‘A&E,’” said Craig Lowry, who has worked with Alex as an MLS and PRO assistant referee and has trained Apolinar and Eduardo as U.S. Soccer ARs. “After speaking with them for a few minutes, I can tell who is who.”

All four have progressed to such an extent as officials that Nasser Sarfarez, director of referee instruction in Southern California, proudly notes, “The Southern California referee community realized that The Fabulous Four are here to stay.”

“It’s common to have two (siblings),” said Arturo Angeles, the California south director of instruction for referees and a national instructor and assessor for U.S. Soccer. “But to have four and to have them at the professional level is very rare. Four is highly, highly unusual.”

What elevates the Mariscals to even greater heights is the quality of human beings they are. That’s the one aspect that supersedes their officiating prowess.

“Immediately,” Lee Popejoy, a national instructor and assessor, answered when asked when he envisioned future elite status for the Mariscals as officials. “They’ve always been serious, they’ve always been focused, they’ve always asked questions, they always listened … they were people who really wanted to become involved. They did what you would expect a top-level student to do.”

A rush of words regarding the Mariscals come to mind for Dr. Herb Silva, a national referee instructor and assessor for U.S Soccer.

“When I think of the Mariscal officiating family,” he said, “the following observations come to mind: They are committed, professional, respectful, competent, humble, loyal, flexible, dependable, knowledgeable and trustworthy.”

Sandra Serafini, PRO women’s referee manager and former official, agrees that the Mariscals are special.

“They take the concept of sibling rivalry and completely turn it on its head,” Serafini said. “I’ve never seen a family that propels each other to be the absolute highest version of what they can be, whether that be with their fitness, their professionalism, their officiating, their careers, their lives.”


felisha-on-alejandro-updatedFelisha on Alejandro

“Alex is always checking in with each of us, making sure we are OK and is always asking us how our games went, dissecting each play and call with us. Even though, the four of us were coaches at one point of our lives, I know that if I have questions about training or an injury, Alex is always there to reach out to for advice. He has a profound knowledge of sports injuries and has an incredible mind for sports science. He is a great older brother who is always looking after us on and off the field. After the passing of our father a year and half ago, Alex, along with our eldest brother Julian, was always there to ensure we were doing OK to get through that difficult and unsettling time in our lives. To this day he is still instrumental in helping us all process how to keep moving forward with the loss.”

Home Base

Their base was Luz. All her children responded to her unyielding insistence that there were always more gold nuggets of excellence to be chisled within the souls of each of them. She even questioned — and fully expected an answer — why the occasional A-minus one of them brought home couldn’t have been an A. She encouraged them to pursue high school sports and made an enormous daily commitment when Felisha, Eduardo and Apolinar went on to compete for international running legend Steve Scott at Cal State San Marcos. Nothing was too much for her kids.

“It was a very tight family,” Scott said. “In the early years, she would drive them to practice — and Chula Vista is a good hour’s drive away — and then drive home. And then she would come back and pick them up after practice in the evening and drive home again. So it was like four hours of driving a day.”

But then, Luz always went to great lengths for her children. To ensure her children were raised in a safe environment, Luz even bought a home one block east of Chula Vista High School to maximize their safety to the venue she deemed most essential in their lives. Education was everything to Luz. This is a woman who took pride in her work, however menial it could be, but damned if her children were ever going to scratch out a living, as her lot in life turned out to be.

“My mother, who only finished high school, managed to work three jobs to make sure we had everything we needed,” Eduardo said. “She always encouraged us to keep studying since she understood the struggles of working without a college degree.”

Throughout their pursuit of excellence, idyllic childhood memories linger for the Mariscal family. There are no ugly images of gangs infiltrating their streets as darkness descended. Fresh graffiti occasionally could be seen scrawled on some wall, but the city always seemed to have it painted it over by the following morning. Their high school exploits included soccer, basketball, boxing, volleyball, cross country and track, sports they managed to master while bringing home the straight-A grade reports that Luz expected.

“My mom has so many awards at home that she filled up a wall,” Alejandro said. “She kept all our trophies. Everyone was successful in athletics.”

The paradox is there wasn’t much to be found in the Mariscal household in terms of material possessions at the time voices of the Mariscal kids were echoing throughout the warm confines. But that never mattered. All that mattered was the bond that existed between the six inhabitants of 341 “L” Street and what a loving bond that was. Luz managed to scrape together just enough dollars to spring for a family trip to Disneyland every Christmas. There were the three movies for the price of one they would regularly watch together at The Vogue Theater in Chula Vista, with “Speed,” “Unbreakable,” “The Lion King” and “Dumb and Dumber” among the titles remaining prominent on their mental marquees.

On Dec. 31, the five children would routinely travel south of the border to celebrate the birthday of their father, Eduardo, a lawyer who remained a loving presence on the edges of their lives. Scores of cousins — “The last time I counted, we had 57,” Alejandro said — would also be on hand for the elder Eduardo’s birthday and the Mariscal clan has fond memories of bringing in the new year together within the Mexican border one day after their father’s birthday. The elder Eduardo, who died in September 2014, often traveled north to Chula Vista to be a face in the crowd during his children’s sporting events.

“My dad always tried to be there, at least in the big moments,” Alejandro said.

But if the elder Eduardo was a somewhat distant mentor, Luz was their compass. Her kids were raised with an enduring foundation, the basis of which could be found every Sunday morning at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, a mile north of their home.

“I wanted to teach them values, to have faith in God,” said Luz, who separated from the elder Eduardo in 1993 and then went through a divorce six years later. “I tried to set examples and we were a very united family. We would go to church as a family and we were always together at dinner time. I would bring them to houses I was cleaning and they would experience how hard it was. They needed to work to help at home.”

Luz wasn’t about to go through the motions as she carried out her exhausting professional housecleaning chores. As her children watched her carrying loads of laundry, triple-checking for one last speck of dust on a shelf and meticulously smoothing a bedspread until it was devoid of any wrinkles, the Mariscal children absorbed tendencies that they would one day apply to their soccer officiating careers.

“My mom was a very hard worker,” Apolinar said. “I think from a young age, we learned to value everything that we had. It was very limited and I knew that when my mom said, ‘Hey, you have to do your work, she was right. I could see her point. Even though we were very, very young, mentally, we were mature. It was never like, ‘Oh, she’s just being a mom.’ She was right.”

So when the day came when Luz informed her children they were old enough to take on jobs to help make ends meet, acceptance dwarfed any semblance of reluctance. Their time had arrived.

“My mother told my siblings and me that we either had to get a job at a fast food restaurant or start refereeing,” Eduardo said.


apolinar-on-eduardo-updatedApolinar on Eduardo

“When I think of my brother, Eduardo, the first thing that comes into my mind is persistency and work rate. Persistency and work rate have helped him accomplish many things. My brother understands that in life you will fail and it is OK if, and only if, you learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward. From what I remember, I have never seen him quit anything in his life. When my brother sets a life goal he likes to pursue it until accomplished.”

The Bond of Refereeing

Soccer officiating had been swirling the air for the Mariscal kids, all of whom excelled in the sport at Chula Vista, since 2000. That’s when Bob Flores, soccer coach at Southwestern Community College in Chula Vista, informed his players that officials in the area were needed. Alejandro, a 20-year-old member of the team, was one of those who listened with both ears.

“He would always encourage us to be immersed in the game,” Alejandro said of Flores. “He would encourage us to jump to the next level as players or become referees. There were three on the team who became interested and, of those three, I was the only one who kept refereeing.”

Alejandro, who was also making deliveries for Kentucky Fried Chicken at this time, didn’t like working in the food business and steered his younger siblings to concentrate on officiating. He was picking up speed on that same course, attending a clinic and qualifying as a Level 8 referee. On the recommendation of Popejoy, Alejandro was invited to a youth camp in the summer of 2001 and was seen by Heroes Baghoumian, former FIFA referee and Cal South State Youth Administrator. The following year, Felisha, Eduardo and Apolinar joined him and, by 2004, all four were invited to attend a youth regional in Hawaii. The family bond was as tight as ever as they elevated their respective skills to a new level.

“It was the first time all four of us got to travel together,” Eduardo said. “It was a wonderful experience, refereeing the best teams in Region 4. It definitely helped having my siblings along since it made us all stronger. We had the trust to talk about our doubts, weaknesses and uncertainties and we were able to bring ourselves up.

“Refereeing really helped us bond together even more because, in this job, you need a lot of support from loved ones. The fact that we were all referees made it more special since we were able to understand what we were going through.”

With that mutual understanding came an epiphany.

“The camp as a whole,” Felisha said, “inspired us to look beyond what initially got us started in refereeing and to set bigger goals for ourselves — the hope as professional referees that someday, we might be at the FIFA level to represent the United States at international tournaments.”

The four Mariscals consistently impressed their superiors with their professionalism, competency and command. Furthermore, they were at least as fit as the athletes they officiated, with Scott’s demanding practices having elevating their physical states to a new level.

“What soccer officials have to go through to get into shape is nothing compared to what I put them through,” Scott said. “I think it really prepared them for moving into that profession. They would not be afraid of anything that soccer would throw at them.”

Just ask Safarez.

“Progress on the field continued as the siblings impressed the referee leaders in all areas of youth, adult, collegiate and professional soccer to receive an increased number of invitationals to major events,” Sarfarez said. “All four were the prime example of what fitness means to a soccer referee at a high level when they effortlessly completed every possible fitness test.”

Like any official, each of the Mariscals experienced their growing pains. Ironically, it was Felisha, who has earned the highest qualification in her family to date, who endured the most as she ascended through the ranks. And this had nothing to do with her ability.

“After I graduated from youth games, I got more assignments to officiate men’s adult amateur leagues,” she said. “This was perhaps the most challenging aspect of refereeing yet. Every game was a constant struggle to keep the authority as the official in control. Many of the players and coaches doubted my ability to handle the pace and apply the Laws of the Game. On many occasions, they would remind me of my gender and try to perpetuate their own expectations of who should be officiating their games.

“After a few of these games, I would drive home frustrated, sometimes questioning and second-guessing if I should keep refereeing. During this point in my career, I wish I would have known that by going through this turmoil, I was molded into being a better referee physically, mentally and emotionally. I would have not been ready to do women’s or men’s professional games had I not been forced to meet with passionate players of this sort ahead of time.”

All four have arrived, bringing integrity and extreme competence to their assignments. The Marsicals have occasionally pooled their talents in various incarnations and their communication skills are something to behold. One example was June 11, 2011, when Alejandro, Eduardo and Apolinar worked a match together between Mexico Sub 22 and Venezuela in Las Vegas. Alejandro served as the center referee while Apolinar and Eduardo were the assistant referees.

“This was not an easy game to referee especially because both teams are really difficult to referee,” Eduardo said. “This game was a test for us as a family working together. We know each other so well that I knew my brothers knew what to expect from me and vice versa. There was complete trust and, even though the communication devices did not work as planned, it did not matter since my brother knew us so well and he was able to read our body language.

“This was the first time my mother came to see us referee and she had the biggest surprise because, no matter which referee the fans were yelling at, it was one of her children.”

Seventeen days later, on June 28, the Mariscals upped the ante to four of a kind when the three brothers and one sister officiated an Open Cup match between the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Orange County County Blues at Cal State-Fullerton. It was the only time to date that all four have shared a field in the realm of professional officiating and the communication that went on between them was almost worth the price of admission by itself.

“I had worked with them at times for exhibition matches or in adult and youth league games,” Felisha said. “Calling a match with my brothers seems to come easier as we can communicate easier using gestures, eye contact, head nods and other forms of body language since we know each other so well.

“In all our games, we are each other’s biggest support, source of critique and training ally. We make a point to watch each other’s games and scrutinize the breakdown afterward. Not a family function goes by when, inevitably, a careful analysis of refereeing soccer begins to surface.”


eduardo-on-apolinar-updatedEduardo on Apolinar

“Something I can say about my brother Polo is that he is grateful of the help we received and appreciative of those who gave us that help. Many of the people who helped us never realized what an impact they made. By helping one of us, all four benefitted. Polo feels that giving back to those in need is the best way to pay it forward. I see that it doesn’t matter how busy he is, he will always find a way to give a hand to a friend or someone in need, such as, free math tutoring or mentoring upcoming referees. The way Polo works with upcoming referees resembles the way he works with his math students; he treats both of his professions as an opportunity to help others succeed.”

‘The Best They Can Be’

It was all about achievement to the highest degree for these young adults. And as they ascended the ranks of officiating, they each fulfilled Luz’s desire to make something genuinely meaningful of their lives. Felisha teaches advanced placement Spanish at Chula Vista High School. Eduardo teaches mathematics at Mira Costa Community College and Polomar Collage. Apolinar also is a mathematics instructor at those two colleges as well as Cal State University. Even Alejandro, who centers his professional life on soccer officiating more than any of his siblings, doubles as a Spanish translator.

It’s called getting the most out of their lives, just as Luz consistently encouraged them to do. And the wisdom she has passed along burns brightly within each of her children, leaving a lasting impression on anyone with whom they cross paths.

“These young people have had such an outstanding support system since they were small,” said Sandra Hunt, national assessor and instructor for U.S. Soccer. “And it shows. When you meet them, they look you right in the eye. I assign them for college soccer and have worked with them for years as they worked their way up the professional ranks and they look you in the eye and shake your hand very firmly when you meet them. They have what we call, ‘It.’”

Popejoy routinely worked matches at Chula Vista when the Mariscals were in high school. What he remembers were gifted athletes with minimal ego but ample sportsmanship with the drive to succeed.

“They were at the top academically and they always supported each other,” Popejoy said. “I’ve been at games where one of them is refereeing and, after the game, they sit down in the stands, they talk about the game and things they can improve. They’re a positive family. They have a mother who required that they do the things they’re supposed to do as kids in a positive way. They accepted her 100 percent and they all worked together.”

Scott saw those same qualities when he coached Felisha, Eduardo and Apolinar at Cal State San Marcos. Not only could they handle everything this demanding coach threw at them in practice, they routinely gave him back so much change for each of the figurative dollars he invested in each of them.

“They never missed a workout,” he said. “They were just a very dedicated, hard-working bunch. They were dedicated to the classroom, dedicated to their running, dedicated to the team and just very, very nice people. We would go up to Mammoth Mountain (in Sierra, Nev.) before the cross country season started and they were always willing to help in the kitchen with anything that was needed. All the others would be horsing around, but they would always want to help and go above and beyond what was expected of them.”

And as all four continue to solidify their identities as professional soccer officials, they have each other to thank, not to mention that smallish woman with the enormous heart who made it all possible.

“I have been blessed to have my siblings as referees and to be able to referee with them,” Eduardo said. “We have pushed each other to become better referees. We have always been united and I believe that is what made us so strong throughout our careers. I thank my mom for a great deal of our success since she always supported us,”

Added Felisha, “My brothers grew up together not only as siblings, but also as athletes, students, coaches and as professional referees. We are each other’s best friend and I know I can count on any of them.”

And through it all, a tired mother who used to balance three jobs looks on with enormous pride, satisfied that all her sacrifices were worth the struggle.

“I am very, very proud of them,” Luz said. “I feel so happy. I think they turned out to be the best they could be. When people think about them, they like them. People tell me what they think of my children and all I can say is that I’m proud of them.”

Peter Jackel is an award-winning writer from Racine, Wis.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 05/16 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Volleyball – Over and Doubt


One Misplaced Pass Can Lead to Many Possible Faults

By Suzanne Dodd

Crushing an opponent’s overpass can be one of the surest ways for a team to win a point and gain momentum. It’s a foolproof way to excite any hard-hitting attacker, the attacker’s team and the fans. Big middle hitters dream about smacking down the overpass while the defenders flail about helplessly.   

When a team’s first contact either enters the plane of the net or passes completely beyond the plane of the net, an overpass has occurred. A smart opposing hitter will take advantage of the poor pass and go for the kill, setting up as many as five possible outcomes on the play. That creates a lot of information for a first referee to process — all within a split second.

The set-up.

When any part of the ball enters the plane of the net, either team has a right to the next contact. If the overpassed ball occurs on service reception, the receiving team will rarely have a blocker in place for defense and the missed pass often results in a strong attack or carefully directed blocking action by the serving team. If the misplaced pass occurs at any other time during the play, blockers and/or setters will often be at the net, creating a more challenging situation for the referees.

The possibilities.

With at least five possible outcomes on an overpass, a referee must be in good position, pay attention to the timing of the contact(s), anticipate who might make the play, and show good court awareness.

The first cue the referee should look for is the position of the ball with respect to the net plane. A ball may be legally contacted by either team once any part of the ball enters the vertical plane of the net.    

To judge ball position, the referee should be centered directly down the plane of the net as the ball approaches. The referee’s focus should then quickly shift to the ball to determine who contacted it first if there are players at the net. 

It is important to note that while an overpass may not appear to be an attack hit, by definition, any ball directed toward the opponent’s court is considered an attack hit and may be legally blocked by the opponent. However, attacking a ball that is entirely on the opponent’s side of the net is illegal. A referee must be sure that the ball entered the net plane before the opponent may attack it. 

Since a ball that is in the plane of the net is fair game for either team, if players on both sides simultaneously contact the ball, it is possible for the ball to momentarily come to rest between the two opponents. A “joust” is a legal contact, and play continues. After a joust, if the ball immediately lands out of bounds, the team on the opposite side of the net is at fault as it has provided the impetus to send the ball out of bounds.

Timing and anticipation are important skills for making the correct call at the net. When a ball is falling near the net, players on both sides may attempt to make a play on the ball. Therefore, the referee must anticipate the timing of the contact(s), and determine who hit the ball first. 

The sequence of contacts is especially relevant when a back-row player is involved in the play at the net. Identifying the setter’s position before a rally begins is imperative so that the correct call can be made immediately. However, if a referee is unsure about the setter’s position at the time of contact, it is acceptable to make a delayed fault call for an illegal attack or block by the back-row player. When a back-row setter contacts the ball that is in or near the plane of the net, the key question to ask is: Which team made the next contact? If the opponents made the next contact, then an illegal attack should be called if the ball was entirely above the top of the net when the back-row setter contacted it. If, instead, the next contact is made by a player on the same team as the back-row setter, then play continues. The result is entirely different if the back-row setter is near the net but the opponents contact the ball first and block the ball into the back-row setter. If the back-row setter is reaching higher than the height of the net, then the setter becomes an illegal blocker.

As if concentrating on the position of the ball, sequence of events, positions of the players, and proximity to the net is not enough, the referee must also judge the legality of the ball contact. An overpassed ball can present problems for the next player to contact it, but especially for a setter trying to save the ball. In trying to keep the ball on the same side of the net, the setter may attempt a set and double contact the ball. Maybe the setter will decide to go for the kill and dump the ball, in which case a caught or thrown ball becomes a possibility. The referee must also look for the opponent to over-control the ball during a block, making a catch/throw a possibility.

The overpass creates a demanding situation for a referee. There are many factors for the referee to process, many possible faults, and some ways for play to continue. The referee must be on his or her toes to determine: a) the location of the ball in relation to the net; b) who touches the ball first; and c) the position of the player(s) who make contact with the ball. Further increasing the complexity of the situation, the referee must also be alert to net contact by either team, possible centerline violations and the height of the ball at contact. 

Be ready. Know the rules. Think fast.

Suzanne Dodd, Greenville, S.C., is a PAVO National volleyball referee and line judge and a USA Volleyball Junior National referee. She is adjunct faculty at Anderson University in Anderson, S.C., in the Department of Kinesiology.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 04/14 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Football – Well Grounded in the Rules

How the Turf Can Influence the Game


Whether it’s dry or wet, artificial or natural, the surface on which the game is played can have a marked influence on how the game is played and on specific plays.

Muddy fields favor the running game. Many believe a slick field helps the players on offense because they know where they are going, while the defense doesn’t. When a runner slips and goes down by rule, no one credits the ground with the tackle. Instead, the closest defender gets the stat. There are several scenarios, though, in which the ground can be a factor.

The ground cannot cause a fumble. That’s an oft-spoken phrase in football. Actually the ground can cause a fumble under NCAA and NFHS rules even though there is no requirement for a runner to be down by contact. It would, however, be a very rare occurrence.

The veracity of that phrase lies in the fact that, 99.9 percent of the time, when the ball is freed from the runner’s grip as it hits the ground, the ball is already dead. It is dead because a part of the runner’s body other than a hand or foot had touched the ground before the ball touched the ground. That body part might be a knee, the side of a thigh or the forearm. Contact with the ground by any of those body parts causes the ball to become dead. Forward progress is marked at the foremost point of the ball when the contact with the  ground occurred.

So how can the ground cause a fumble? While in a runner’s possession, the ball contacts the ground before any part of the runner’s body other than a hand or foot, and that contact causes the runner to lose control of the ball, then indeed the ground has “caused” a fumble. As you can imagine it would be a most unusual play. The runner would have to either stumble and try to use the ball to regain his balance, he could “lay out” or be flipped heels over head, so that the ball contacts the ground before the rest of the runner’s body, other than perhaps, the free hand.

The ground can cause an incomplete pass. Catching a ball involves more than simply gaining control of it. It means gaining possession of the ball in flight and first coming to the ground inbounds (NFHS 2-4-1; NCAA 2-2-7). If an airborne player receives the ball and lands so his first contact is inbounds, he has caught the ball. Barring contact by an opponent, if the first contact is out of bounds, there is no catch and the pass is incomplete. If a player controls the ball while airborne, but loses possession when he lands, there is no catch. Thus, the ground can cause an incomplete pass.

One fairly common scenario is a player who gains control of a ball in flight while he is in mid-air. He then comes to the ground with a foot just inside the sideline and falls to the ground out of bounds. When the player contacts the ground, the ball pops out from his hands. That may occur either with or without the ball contacting the ground.

Some will argue that is a completed pass because the catch was completed when his foot touched the ground. Admittedly, the player has certainly complied with the exact requirements of the rule, but the key is “possession.” While it appeared to the eye that the player gained possession of the ball, the fact that the ball came loose upon contact with the ground is proof the player did not have sufficient control to satisfy the rule. That sort of qualifies as “evidence after the fact,” but that’s what the rule requires.

That principle applies regardless of where the airborne receiver comes to the ground: out of bounds, inbounds, in the middle of the field or the end zone. In the preceding scenario, the play did not end when the receiver’s foot touched the ground inbounds — the ball remained live. Such a play ends when the receiver touches out of bounds and, as described, the ball becomes loose at the time it is to be declared dead.

Let’s take the same airborne receiver and have him gain control between the hashmarks above the end zone. He then comes to the ground in the following sequence: first foot, second foot, hip, back. The ball pops free when his back contacts the turf. Is that a catch? One argument can be that not only was the catch complete when the first foot touched the ground, but the ball was dead because it was in the end zone. Again, failure to maintain control of the ball until the player has completely come to the ground indicates that the rule requiring possession was not satisfied. The result is an incomplete pass.

The ground cannot commit a personal foul. Perhaps that’s not as widely known as the first two phrases, but it’s certainly valid. That phrase was probably coined by Randy Campbell of the Mountain West Conference. Randy uses that phrase to encourage officials not to stare down at the ground after a play ends (a common fault among prep officials, especially when marking the progress spot). Dead-ball fouls, especially at a sideline, are almost always formulated in the mind of the perpetrator while the ball is live and executed within three seconds after the ball becomes dead.

In order for a late hit to occur, the potential offender must be in proximity of an opponent. Piling on or late hits near the runner are relatively easy to catch because officials tend to watch the player with the ball. Fouls away from the play are more difficult, but only because some crews are not disciplined to keep all 22 players in view after the play ends. It’s not difficult to maintain vigilance for three seconds and it is a key component of good dead-ball officiating.

Of course, dead-ball fouls can occur after the threesecond vigilance period. Opponents may begin the dead-ball interval with verbal jousting that escalates to physical confrontation. The syllables themselves may constitute taunting. Officials should monitor all bantering among opponents. If opponents remain near each other after a play ends, there is a potential problem and the nearest official should close in and let his presence be known. In many cases that will be enough to deter any extracurricular activity.

A common distraction to dead-ball officiating is the ball itself. Some officials incorrectly make chasing the ball their first priority after the play ends. That task should be left to the ball boys if the ball has gone outside the sideline and to the players if it remains on the field. It is OK if the game is momentarily delayed while the ball is retrieved. The teams will eventually get into the routine of taking care of the unneeded ball.

If necessary and the circumstances permit, an official can fetch the ball once all players have started to return to their huddle or a new position.

Written by George Demetriou. A football official since 1968, he lives in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 03/08 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Baseball – Umpires Earn ‘A’ in Type ‘B’ Obstruction

By Steve Harms


attended the state tournament in my home state of Illinois. There was a play late in the Class 4A title game. While watching live, I wondered how the umpires were going to rule, and started running through all the possibilities in my head.

But after watching the video and speaking with the plate umpire … well, let’s get to the play before I reveal what I thought.

The game was between Lyons Township and Oak Park/River Forest. They are both in the West Suburban Conference and had split four earlier meetings in the season. Lyons came into the game as the defending champion and no “large school” team had repeated as champion since 1958-59.

Entering the sixth inning, Lyons (the visiting team) trailed, 3-2. The leadoff hitter doubled to left field and a pinch runner was brought in. The next batter grounded out to first, advancing R2 to third.

B3 popped out to second base, making it two outs in the inning. B4 hit a ball deep in the hole at shortstop. F6 made a great backhanded stop, but his throw was low and late to F3. B4 was safe and the pinch runner scored the tying run.

R1 then stole second and was in scoring position. On the third pitch, B5 lined a clean single to left field. F7 charged the ball hard and fielded it cleanly on one hop. Since there were two out, R2 was off on contact, no doubt hoping to score.

F5 turned toward the outfield and backed up into position to handle a cutoff throw when he and R2 made contact about 12-15 feet from third base. R2 fell headfirst into third base.

So there was obstruction, but the question is, does the run score?

The relevant rule is Type “B” obstruction — because there was no immediate play being made on R2 (NFHS 8-3-2; NCAA 8-3e [2]; pro 7.06b). Under all rules, that’s  a delayed-dead ball, so play was allowed to continue.

NFHS rules require the runner to be awarded at least one base, but since he hadn’t yet reached third at the time of the obstruction, that is the only base he was guaranteed. However, the umpires were entitled to award base(s) they felt the runner would have achieved had the obstruction not occurred.

Since there were two out, the offensive coach would certainly argue that the runner was going to score the go-ahead run. The defensive coach would say there was no way the runner would score on a one-hop single to left field and the game would remain tied.

Either way, someone was not going to be happy with the decision.

When the obstruction occurred, my focus turned to the plate umpire. He had immediately called the obstruction, as he was responsible for the runner touching third. In Illinois, three umpires are used in the state title game. With two outs, U1 was stationed in the “A” position and U3 was in the middle of the field, no matter the runner configuration.

Since I focused on the umpire and his actions, my review of the play is from the video of the game that I saw.

As I watched, one second later, I could see that F7 fielded the ball cleanly and was preparing to throw to the plate.

R2 was still on top of the bag at third after being tripped, while F5 had continued to play and was in position for the cutoff. F6 was headed toward third base for any defensive play that needed to be made.

F7’s throw was just a few feet up the third-base line in fair territory, very near the plate. It got there about two seconds after release and did not hit the ground.

After the play stopped, the plate umpire called time and awarded the runner … third base.

When it happened live, I wondered if the plate umpire was going to score R2 and, my initial reaction was that he certainly could have done so.

After having the opportunity to review the video and “freeze” the action at each second, I think it was a great call.

When the obstruction occurred, R2 had not yet reached third base. F7 fielded the ball cleanly and his throw was on target, arriving at the plate about three seconds after the obstruction. I don’t think there’s a runner alive, with the possible exception of Usain Bolt, who can cover more than 100 feet in less than three seconds, and that would only be if it were a straight shot. R2 had to round third, so his distance and the time it would have taken were definitely increased.

After making the call, the plate umpire explained his ruling to the offensive head coach and the game continued with a tie score.

The game ended in the bottom of the seventh inning when River Forest’s leadoff hitter tripled. After two intentional walks, a clean single to right ended the state title game in walkoff fashion.

After the game, the plate umpire told me there were several reasons he didn’t score the run — the position of F7, the fact that the hit was a line drive directly at F7 and the quality of the throw.

He went on to say that if any of the following had occurred, he probably would have scored R2:

• If the ball had been to the right or left of F7 by even two steps.

• If the ball had been bobbled by F7.

• If the throw had skipped past (or “air-mailed”) F2.

• If the throw had not been on target.

In each of those cases and in the play involved, the benefit of the doubt has to belong to the person who was obstructed. If the plate umpire had any doubt that the run would have scored, the proper call would have been to award the base and penalize the fielder for committing the obstruction.

The plate umpire also told me  he was grateful that F7 didn’t see the fall and then decide to throw to second base or lob the ball in. It was “the perfect storm” of events after the obstruction call.

Some say the best games are the ones where umpires aren’t seen, but in that case, the plate umpire was seen making a great call at a key moment in the biggest game in the state.

Steve Harms, Warrenville, Ill., umpires high school and college baseball.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 10/12 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Basketball – Clean Up the Screen

We’ve seen the play a multitude of times. The ballhandler is dribbling up the court when a screener sets a blind screen on a moving opponent and huge collision occurs. Every person in the place sees the collision and an exasperated gasp comes over the gymnasium. Was it legal or was it a foul?

To understand the impact of the play, officials have to not only watch the defender, but also have to watch the screener to determine position. In PlayPic A, Number 15 has approached the play to set a ball screen for the dribbler. The defender is unaware of a potential screen and is moving in an attempt to continue a closely guarded count on the dribbler. In PlayPic B, the collision occurs. A blocking foul (illegal screen) has to be whistled on number 15, who has moved into the path of a moving opponent (number 10) and it is too late for that opponent to stop or change direction. To set a screen on a moving opponent, the same principles on distance apply as when an initial guarding position is taken on a moving opponent without the ball. The opponent must be able to stop or change direction. If ample room or space is given, and number 15 had come to a complete stop in position, any contact would be ignored (or possibly ruled a foul on the defender).

Also notice the position of the feet of the screener. The NCAA enacted a rule this season that states the normal stance of the screener shall be approximately shoulder width (NCAA 4-57). In PlayPic B, clearly number 15 has his legs too far apart, greater than the width of his shoulders.

It can be very difficult for the official on the ball to officiate this play. Primary coverage is on the ballhandler and opponent and all of the sudden a huge collision has occurred. The off-ball official(s) will have the best chance at locating the screener and determining the screener’s position to know whether or not the screen was legal.


Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 04/07 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Softball – Trouble Area

Partner Communication Essential for Tough Plays at First


By Jay Miner

The last half of the distance from home plate to first base is one of the biggest trouble areas in softball. To stay on top of those sometimes surprising and often spontaneous events, it is vital for umpires to have understanding, communication, cooperation, judgment, common sense and thoughtful reasoning focused in that area. A comprehensive knowledge of the rules is also important as there are variations among different codes.

The base umpire will make most of those calls, but the plate umpire has important calls, too. The plate umpire must be aware of when to step up and make a call and when to be an observer of the action and wait to be summoned to provide additional information that may have been unseen by the base umpire.

On infield grounders with no runners on, the base umpire will move from position A behind first base to a calling position in fair territory. The plate umpire will exit to the left of the catcher and trail the batter-runner to first base moving not more than half of the way to first. With a runner(s) on base in a two-umpire system, the plate umpire exits to the left of the catcher on the first-base line extended to observe the play at first and be prepared to rule on a possible pulled foot or swipe tag by the first baseman, if requested by the base umpire.

Plate umpire’s call. If the throw to first base originates from in front of the plate, the plate umpire must be ready for possible three-foot lane interference by the batter-runner on the play going to first base. The plate umpire is responsible for ruling the ball fair or foul and determining if the batter-runner has at least one foot in the three-foot lane or if he or she is outside of the lane.

Three-foot-lane interference is primarily the responsibility of the plate umpire and results in an immediate and aggressive call: “Time! Time! That’s three-foot lane interference. The batter-runner is out.” Stand tall and sell the call.

Any other runners on base when three-foot lane interference occurs are entitled to remain on the last base touched at the time of the interference. In NCAA, other runners are returned to the bases they occupied at the time of the pitch (TOP).

Three-foot lane interference can occur only on a play going to first base. It cannot occur on a play going to the plate area.

Shared coverage. Usually, the plate umpire will call tag plays and other situations on the batter-runner the first 30 feet up the line and the base umpire will call the last half of the distance to first base. When a tag is near the halfway point, the two umpires must make eye contact to decide which umpire makes the call. If one umpire wants the call, he or she will point aggressively at the play with his or her left hand to show he or she has the call. The intent of the technique is that the other umpire will see the point and back off on the play.

It’s best to pregame that situation and determine ahead of time who will likely make the call. Usually, the umpire with the best view of the play should make the call. If the base umpire is in position C or D, it probably will be a lot easier for the plate umpire to take most tag plays in that situation.      

Batter-runner steps back toward home. When the batter-runner steps back toward the plate to avoid or delay a tag, the ball is dead and the batter-runner is out. Any other runners on base are entitled to the bases reached at the time of the infraction, except in NCAA, where runners are returned to the bases they occupied at TOP.

Swipe tag/pulled foot. The base umpire should concentrate and strive to get all swipe tags and pulled foot calls correct, and especially when they are on the same side of the diamond as the call. When help is needed the base umpire should ask for additional information from the plate umpire before making the call. The base umpire should not give the call to the plate umpire but should ask for specifics when needed. For example, “Joe, do you have a tag?” “Julie, did she pull her foot?” The plate umpire should not give an opinion on the swipe tag or pulled foot unless asked.

The base umpire should strive to get the angle to see a pulled foot at first base when on the same side of the diamond but may request help before making a call.

Dead-ball calls. Dead-ball calls on overthrows will be called primarily by the plate umpire but may be made by either umpire. Either umpire can make other dead-ball calls.

Interference and obstruction. Either umpire can make interference and obstruction calls. The majority of interference calls result in an immediate dead ball and obstruction calls are always delayed-dead.

Jay Miner is a longtime umpire, rules interpreter and former assigner from Albany, N.Y.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 09/12 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Volleyball – What’s the Rush?


By Jim Momsen

What does the phrase “leaving early” mean to you? Is it what you do when the conversation at a get-together starts getting heated about referees? Is it the act of exiting from your day job before the normal end of the day so you can get to your match assignment on time? Or, is it your explanation to a coach when he or she asks why you called the positional fault/illegal alignment on his or her team’s setter?

Let’s look at the third situation and ponder why some referees use the phrase more often than others.

Typically, “leaving early” describes the action of the receiving team’s setter moving to get into position to receive a teammate’s pass during serve-receive.

The rule that applies is “positional faults.” The description of a positional fault/illegal alignment is almost universal in NCAA, USAV and NFHS. Here’s the essence of the rule: The team commits illegal alignment or a positional fault if any player is not in the correct position, according to the location of his or her feet in contact with the court, at the moment the ball is contacted for service.

Are the receiving team’s players allowed to move before the service contact? Absolutely, as long as they still conform to the above rule!

So when is “leaving early” most prevalent? The setter is usually moving when he or she has a long distance to travel to get to his or her desired area for receiving a teammate’s pass. The three positions where that player needs to travel are when he or she is in receiving serve in position five (left-back), position four (left-front) or position one (right-back). The problem is that they may start their movement before the contact of service, and have moved to a different position relative to their teammates when the serve is contacted.

If that happens, what is the actual fault? Not that they left early, but, because of where they are located in relation to their teammates, they have committed a positional fault. The other terminology that is often used is that they are “overlapped,” though overlapped is typically used when two players start in the wrong positions.

The second referee should be watching the positions of the players on the receiving team at the time the ball is contacted for service. The second referee can listen for the sound of the service contact while watching the receiving team. You can tell when the hit is about to occur because the receiving team tends to become more tense and ready to react to the serve. Also, the setter is focusing on the server to begin his or her movement.

So, how do you describe the issue to the coach? Unless it is a blatant positional fault, warn the coach of any potential positional fault, whether it is the setter leaving early or that two teammates are getting very close to committing a positional fault. If you blow the whistle to call a positional fault, give the coach the numbers of the players that are out of position and where they should be and always use the terminology of the rule. For example, “Coach, number six is left-back and was to the right of number 12, your middle back, at the time of the service contact. That’s a positional fault (or that’s illegal alignment).”

Jim Momsen, Hartland, Wis., is a PAVO and USAV national referee and trainer, and a high school referee.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 03/14 issue of Referee Magazine.)

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